Master Class Pen Pal

Pen Pals

Hey everyone! Sorry it’s been awhile since my last blog post, but the school year is in full swing and I’ve begun a new novel: Maddie Jones & the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors. The book is coming along great. It might be my best yet. The suspense grabs you by the throat in chapter 1 and doesn’t let up. The hard part is trying to keep the thrills coming, though. Keeping my fingers cross all my hard work pays off. I hope to secure an agent for it once it’s ready.

In the meantime, I’ve also been working on my Master Class lessons with James Patterson. I’m nearly through with the class. I’ve only got about 5 more lessons to go. The process has been super helpful in making Maddie Jones a page turner.

Something neat has happened through Master Class, too. The Site has a forum where writers can share their work. I posted the first Maddie Jones chapter, and wouldn’t you know it, I struck up a friendship with a Canadian author who is also working on a middle school novel. I shared a few chapters online, but I didn’t want to keep posting them in such a public place, so through my author website here, we were able to exchange emails. Now we’ve been sharing work back and forth, providing tips and insights for each other. It’s been a lot of fun to have someone read each chapter as they’re finished. Several critiques have even influenced me in the direction Maddie’s story has gone–particularly with the pacing, keeping the action going, that sort of thing. What’s really great is that we are both targeting our work to the same audience. I attend a lot of critique groups here locally, but there aren’t many people who write my genres.

Anyway, that’s what has been going on with me since my last post. I have a lot going on in the very near future, like the release of a new novel, Creative Con, and I’ll be a guest author for the Bay County Public Library on November 2. Stay tuned. I’ll let you know specifics as we get closer to the events.

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Outlining vs. Free Writing

Writing Picture

I hope everyone is enjoying their Memorial Day weekend. I spent the morning with the kids at the beach. We had a lot of fun building sand castles and swimming. Now the kids are napping, and I’m sitting down to write the final chapters of Maddie Jones and the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors. Well, I’m not really writing the final chapters, just outlining a first draft. I’m excited how the story has turned out so far. Maddie’s first adventure is an archaeological thrill ride filled with history, suspense and twists, a few laughs and, I hope, likable characters and detestable villains.

In the past, I have recruited test readers to give me feedback on my manuscripts. For the first novel in the Maddie Jones series, I might recruit test readers to critique my outline. We’ll see. I’m not sure at the moment. It would be a strange process, but the outline reads like an abbreviated version of the story. My outlines aren’t typically so put together, but I’m currently a Master Class student with James Patterson. He devoted two whole lessons to the outlining process. Patterson calls outlines his “secret weapon.” He typically spends two months on an outline before he sits down to write the novel. By having a solid outline filled with suspense and the right amount of pacing, he’s able to write a story that draws you in and makes you keep turning pages.

I got to say, after creating the first Maddie Jones book in this way–outlining the story from start to finish, scene by scene–I will likely never write another story like I did before. With my previous novels and short stories, I often wrote a brief outline, then filled in the gaps with free writing as I went. James Patterson says, “Don’t do this.” He believes your story won’t be as suspenseful and engaging if you go in blind; or, as in my case, partially blind.

Now, I know there is no right or wrong way to tell a story. There are writers out there who will disagree with Patterson. But have they sold 300 million copies of their books? Um, more than likely not. If you want to be successful, I believe you should learn from the best and emulate what they did. I am now convinced thorough outlining is effective. It frees me to simply tell the story and not worry about flashy sentences. I can see why Patterson recommends it so strongly. Will his tips make me successful? Who knows. But Maddie Jones and the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors is a better story because of it.

Writers Don’t Get Downtime

Well, my next novel is currently in the hands of test readers. A couple copies have trickled back in, and so far the kids are enjoying Medical MECH. Once I have everyone’s feedback, I plan to revisit the manuscript for rewrites and edits. Afterwards, I’ll send the story out to agents and keep my fingers crossed that it will get picked up. In the meantime, I’ve started my next project: The Adventures of Maddie Jones.

If you’ve ever read anything on writing, or heard a successful author answer this question: What should I do if I want to become a writer? They will almost unanimously say to write, write, and write some more. Read a lot, and read different genres. So that’s what I do. I rarely have downtime between projects. I finish one and immediately move on to the next. Although Medical MECH is nearing completion (well, it’s nearly complete as far as the manuscript is concerned. Publication is a whole other beast), I have ideas for new stories that are itching to be told.

My newest project is a five book series for young adult readers. The series name is The Adventures of Maddie Jones. Each book will follow Maddie as she journeys to uncover mysteries of the past. The stories will be thrillers told in a James Patterson style–short chapters and a fast-paced narrative. Maddie’s “voice” will be akin to Percy Jackson’s from The Lightning Thief. I’ve diligently been working on book one’s outline, and it’s coming along nicely so far. At the moment, I’m wrapping up the third act. The outline will take several edits and rewrites to make it a solid start, but I’m excited to begin writing once the outline is complete. If you’re curious, here are the individual titles for each book:

  1. Maddie Jones and the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors
  2. Maddie Jones and the Grave of Robin Hood
  3. Maddie Jones and the Doomed Knights of the Round
  4. Maddie Jones and the Ghost of Coronado
  5. Maddie Jones and the Inca Mummy of Ecuador

I’ve written the story synopsis for each book. For now, check out book one’s premise:

When business tycoon Rico Raja kidnaps Hank Jones, a museum curator who deciphered an ancient text involving the Terracotta Warriors, his teenage daughter Maddie must uncover the secrets behind the greatest archaeological discovery of the twentieth-century in order to save him. But when those secrets reveal a 2,000 year old curse, and Rico’s plan to release the soul of the First Qin Emperor of China, Maddie must seek allies in the unlikeliest of places—from a Terracotta Warrior who has come to life, General Li Fei. Perhaps Maddie should call the National Guard, or the Army, or the Ghostbusters, because things are getting out of hand.

What are your thoughts on this new project? Which book title draws you in the most? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email.

Testing the waters with new ideas

As many of you know, I’m currently a Master Class student with James Patterson as my instructor. I’ve been given an assignment: jot down my book ideas and share them to get feedback. So I’m testing the waters. Below are my next two book ideas in a new series for kids. What do you think? Would you read it? I mean, really read it? Give me your input. I’d like to know!

Maddie Jones and the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors

When business tycoon Rico Raja kidnaps Hank Jones, a museum curator who deciphered an ancient text involving the Terracotta Warriors, his teenage daughter Maddie, along with her two younger brothers, must uncover the secrets behind the greatest archaeological discovery of the twentieth-century in order to save him. But when those secrets reveal a 2,000 year old curse, and Rico’s plan to release the soul of the First Qin Emperor of China, Maddie must seek allies in the unlikeliest of places–from a Terracotta Warrior who has come to life, General Li Fei. Perhaps Maddie and her brothers should call the National Guard, or the Army, or the Ghostbusters, because things are getting out of hand.

Maddie Jones and the Grave of Robin Hood

When Maddie Jones accidentally blows up her dad’s museum, a mysterious metal box is recovered from the ashes. Inside, letters dating back to the fourteenth-century allude to the grave of Robin Hood and a hidden map revealing the location of a vast treasure. But when the letters fall into the hands of Vince Barrows, a ruthless mercenary with a penchant for artifacts said to grant immortality, Maddie and her younger brothers must race across England to reach Robin Hood first. Throw in a secret sect and a masked archer determined to keep Robin’s grave buried forever, and the Jones siblings are in for a historic ride. Rob from the rich and give to the poor. Pah, better to rob from the dead and keep it for yourself.